Book Plunge: Making A Meal Of It

What do I think of Ben Witherington III’s book published by Baylor University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife has been exploring Orthodoxy later. I find it interesting that yesterday many of us line up so that people can have a small piece of bread and drink from one cup. My wife and I not being part of the Orthodox Church are not allowed to partake, but we get a blessing. After all of that, we go over to a life center and there’s a meal there where people can get what they want and we can all sit at tables and chat with one another.

It’s ironic to think that the latter practice could be closer to the Lord’s Supper than the former is.

Witherington’s book is meant to give us a theology of the Lord’s Supper. I was quite intrigued to start this book since so many Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox debates can take place around this. I have to agree with my wife’s assessment as we discussed it beforehand that what we usually get at churches should be more accurately called “The Lord’s Snack.”

Witherington starts with Passover. Is this a parallel to the Lord’s Supper? Not really. Passover looked back to the past. The Lord’s Supper is meant more to look to the future. Still, we can get a lot out of learning about how Jews observed meals and how that could differ from the way the Greeks did it.

In the middle, you get an interesting look at John where Witherington explains his reasons for thinking Lazarus is the beloved disciple.  The more I see this case, the more I think Witherington could be on to something. The historians among us will be interested in this as well.

Witherington will go on to talk about the text as it is found in 1 Cor. 11 and in the Gospels and various places in the book of Acts. It’s interesting that this is such an important feature to churches, but really very little is said about it. What is tragic the most is what has happened to the event over time.

As we move away from the idea of house churches and we establish public places for people to go to, the meal becomes less of a meal. It becomes more individualized with personal wafers and in our day, personal cups. It is not the host, the head of the household, who presides over the meal, but rather it is a priest or a minister. Of course, anyone who does preside over this event should be aware of how it needs to be done respectfully, but is there a problem with making it the responsibility of the clergy?

The table has also been a place of exclusion many times. Let’s remember that our Lord ate and drank with prostitutes and tax collectors. At the Last Supper itself, Judas was present and Jesus gave him bread specifically. Of course, the church wanted to make sure that people did not come to their feasts to disrupt them, but could the feasts themselves not be an evangelistic opportunity?

Witherington at the end talks about being on tours in other countries where the Lord’s Supper was done. One person who gave a tour was a Muslim who was apparently questioning. The other was a lapsed Catholic. Witherington talks about how he invited both of them to the table to partake of the elements. Conversion took place.

Ultimately, my view of the Lord’s Supper right now is that the meal is largely symbolic, but meant to draw us into the presence of Christ. Jesus is the real host at every event. As the bread is broken, we are to remember that the body of Jesus was broken. As the wine flows, we are to remember how the blood of Jesus was poured out on the cross.

All of this is meant to draw us into the presence of Jesus. Yet at the same time, we don’t have this like a funeral dirge, but we have it as a celebration. We remember that this was not the end. He is coming back and we look forward to when He reigns again in the future totally when the Father rules on Earth as He does in Heaven.

The meal after the Lord’s Supper could ironically be closer to the Lord’s Supper since it is actually a meal and it is actually us communing together and meeting one another. After all, when the supper was had at Corinth, people were gorging themselves and getting drunk. Hard to think of an individual doing that on what’s given out on many a Sunday morning.

If there was any change I would make to the book, I would like more footnotes when later historical events are talked about. I would like to know where I can find these events in church historians. For instance, I know Witherington shares the story about Origen castrating himself, but I am skeptical of this event being a real one instead of just a legend about Origen.

Still, this book really makes one appreciate the Lord’s Supper and it’s hard to not be moved at the last chapter with the stories of conversion taking place. Those wishing to understand the doctrine of the meal are advised to read Witherington’s book. He’s a top-notch scholar that has again brought us great information and it’s easy to understand.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: We Shall All Be Changed

What do I think of Joel McDurmon’s book published by American Vision? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been an orthodox preterist for years, even before going to a Seminary that is pre-mill and dispensational. A church I attended in Charlotte was largely that way and yet they let me give a presentation on orthodox preterism. It was quite a fun time. There is one title I refuse to accept and that is a partial preterist.

Why? Because I do not consider the other side to consist of full preterists. I call them Neohymenaeans. For reasons that will come out, I consider the movement a heresy. If that is so, why would I want to be called a partial heretic? Preterism means something and I do not define it by the heresy.

In this book, Joel McDurmon takes a look at one of the most prominent figures in the Neohymenaean movement, Don Preston. McDurmon starts with a look at hermeneutics. How we read the text is important. I like that McDurmon starts off with a case that could be convincing to many for the Neohymenaean movement. We must always show that as strange as we think a belief is when we first hear it, there are reasons people hold it. (Indeed, I used to consider preterism this bizarre belief and how could people believe it? The reality was I didn’t know what preterists really believed.)

McDurmon then gives what he thinks is a proper hermeneutic, and I agree with him. One example is that all does not mean all in a literal sense. Consider how we are told all Judea and Jerusalem was baptized by John the Baptist. Really? Every single person in Judea? All those Pharisees and Sadduecees in Jerusalem were going to be baptized? No. This is hyperbole.

The far more damaging part here is the practical outworkings of Neohymenaeanism. If you truly believe this, then you need to do things that are supposed to stop when the fullness of Christ comes in the resurrection and the new age. That includes things like the Lord’s Supper, marriage, and teaching. In other words, if you’re a Neohymenaean, don’t teach it to anyone, don’t have Communion, and don’t marry.

McDurmon also makes an argument for the bodily resurrection. I’m not going to give his key passage here. I think you need to get the book to see that for yourself. He does interact with the problematic reading of passages that attempt to turn the body referred to in passages like 1 Cor. 15 to just that of the body of Christ.

If there was something I would have liked emphasized more, it would be my biggest problem overall with the Neohymenaean movement. That is that if we are to be raised as Christ was raised, and we are instead resurrected spiritually and not physically, then that would mean that Christ was also resurrected spiritually and not physically. We can be told Christ is the exception, but then that leads to a contradiction and is begging the question. That’s why I say the movement is ultimately a Christological heresy. In fact, it’s quite similar to Gnosticism in that the material world doesn’t really matter and it doesn’t deal with the problem of evil ultimately. Evil still gains a victory that claims the material world.

Orthodox preterists out there need to know about the Neohymenaean movement and how to argue against it. Futurists need to realize that orthodox preterists are not neohymenaeans and we stand against this movement just as you do. While Neohymenaeans often try to paint preterists as futurists and dispensationalists, it’s important that on the other end Christians who are futurists don’t paint preterists as Neohymenaeans. Yes. We can have our discussions and disagreements in good Christian fellowship, but let us be clear that we who are orthodox Preterists do indeed hold to an orthodox position.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Apostles’ Creed: The Communion of Saints

What does it mean to speak about the Communion of Saints? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In our day and age if we live in the West, we’ve really lost sight of community. This is why we often have what I call a Lone Ranger Christianity. We tend to think that we can do it all on our own. In the apologetics field, I often see this with people who think they have to be authorities on every subject. In the end, they will end up being authorities on none. They know enough to go a little bit further than most, but they don’t know enough to go deep on a topic.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to apologetics. This applies to many of us in the Christian community. When you meet someone who wants to avoid the fellowship of fellow Christians in a church and chooses to just be a Christian on their own, then you are dealing with someone who thinks that this is actually possible. It’s not. We are commanded to be a body, to be a family, to be a unity.

When we think about the Communion of Saints, we are not thinking about Communion as is practiced in most Protestant churches today, though that is an example, but we are thinking something along the lines of the cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12 with numerous examples in Hebrews 11. We are thinking of the heroes of the faith who went before us and we are also thinking about our brothers and sisters around the world, many of whom are having to pay the ultimate price for Jesus right now.

When the church comes together for a Communion it is where we celebrate what really unites us and what is that? Consider what is often said. “The body of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, broken for you.” “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given for you.” In each case, we are pointing to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This is what unites us. This is our common bond. We are a body that has many members in it and we all serve different roles. Not everyone is an apologist, or an evangelist, or a teacher, or a counselor, or a minister, or a missionary. We might all be called to do some of that type of work on a certain occasion, but that does not mean it is necessarily our life focus.

What unites us most is our neediness. We are all people who realize that we are in trouble and we are in need of a savior and we have chosen to place our trust in Christ and call Him Lord. At least, we say we call Him Lord. The question we have to ask ourselves today is if we just say that or if we really live like it is true, and part of the reason the Christian church is not being the salt and light in the West that it could be is that our individualism makes it that we are more often unknowingly seeking to make ourselves the Lord of Jesus. Our faith is a great way for us to meet our goals and be successful rather than a way for us to bring about the success of the Kingdom of God.

This is also why church history is so important. When we look back, we can see several saints who went before us and see how they lived their lives and learn from their wisdom, and granted this is something I need to do a lot more of as well. None of us are islands in Christianity. We’ve all got to where we were before by standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and we owe them a great debt.

Remember today that you are part of a body. Go through the epistles and look at the “One Another” commands that are given. How many are you following? Are you observing the fact that you are part of the Communion of Saints?

In Christ,

Nick Peters